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CD Reviews: Miles Davis All Stars – Walkin’ & John Coltrane – Soultrane

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For all my jazz lovin' katz and kittenz out there, here are two CDs, remastered and released from Prestige, that will get you in the mood to crawl into some dark, dank smoky nightclub (not in California, though) where you'll sip on some slow gin, while some beatnik on stage pours his heart out through a brass instrument as he stands alone under a single red light. Miles Davis and John Coltrane are two masters of jazz. The way they play and the directions they go in vary greatly, but a rose by any other name is still a rose, and so is the jazz created by these two legends.

Even before Coltrane joined the Miles Davis Quintet back in 1955, Davis was known for his sound and arrangements, and how he pushed the boundaries of jazz (basically finding out that jazz really has no boundaries). Miles started off as a sideman for Eddie Randall's Blue Devils, where he met and was mentored by Clark Terry. While studying at Julliard, Miles played clubs in the city where he met people like Charlie Parker (Bird) and Coleman Hawkins.

Coltrane, on the other hand, first played in a band during his enlistment with the U.S. Navy. He signed on with Dizzy Gillespie and became one of Dizzy's featured artists on his radio shows. Coltrane has been described as the best sax player in history, although he was known for being a "bop" sax player before he joined Miles in 1955. Unfortunately, neither CD has both of these greats playing together, but they are joined by other greats of the jazz sound.

On Walkin', Davis brings together his sextet that includes J.J. Johnson on trombone, Lucky Thompson on tenor saxophone, Horace Silver on piano, Percy Heath on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. They play on the first three tracks on the disc: the title track, "Blue 'N' Boogie" and "Solar". "Walkin'" is a funked-up blues jam that the sextet gives a big band sound. The intro is played, then Miles lays down a solo followed by other solos and little jams.

Miles and his quintet, which is the sextet minus the trombone, and the sax switched for an alto played by Dave Schildkraut, perform the last two tunes. Where "Walkin'" and "Blue 'N' Boogie" were up-tempo rhythms that let Miles explode with ferocity, "You Don't Know What Love Is" and "Love Me or Leave Me" are toned down only a few notches. The tempos are still upbeat and jumpy, with solos around the board.

Coltrane's Soultrane begins with a Dameron-Basie composition called "Good Bait." The sax starts it off with a little bit of bop that gives me the image of a spring hootenanny at a country fair. The band is comprised Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Arthur Taylor on drums. Whereas "Good Bait" seems to have the most upbeat rhythm, "Russian Lullaby" has the quickest tempo to it. Here, Coltrane rockets his sax to new levels, racing up and down the scales as Chambers and Garland jump in and out while Taylor drives hard with quick brush strokes that fuel Coltrane's rush.

The three middle tracks are where the album's soul resides. Here, deep blues are felt, and the rhythms and melodies are played out like a streetcar named “Desire”; the sadness, pain, love and hopes are felt in "You Say You Care," "I Want to Talk About You" and "Theme for Ernie."

Both of these CDs were well worth the time I spent testing them out, if ya' know what I mean. Miles has always been a favorite of mine since my buddy BCM first introduced me back in the late '80s. I am still new to Coltrane, so for me this was a great treasure to have. Shuggi-duggi, another close music pal, turned me on to Coltrane about five years ago and I have been a fan ever since. Soultrane has now cemented Coltrane into my music library right next to my other cornerstone of music, Miles Davis. If you love jazz, you'll dig on these two discs, and if you're not a big jazz fan yet, then you need to listen to these and see what jazz is all about.

Written by Fumo Verde 

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://www.chancelucky.blogspot.com chancelucky

    The version of Walkin with Lucky Thompson has always been my favorite of Miles’s many recordings of it. There’s something about thte time kept by the rhythm section and the relaxed but energetic solos that give it a freshness that seemed to slip away from Miles in the sixties.

    I think the Schildkraut cuts are on the same album, but they are actually very different sessions and I’ve never thought they were up to the standard of the Horace Silver/Lucky Thompson. Silver and Wynton Kelly tended to bring out a bluesier Miles.

    Soultrane is also very good mid-era Coltrane and it’s interesting to hear him with the Miles Davis Quintet rhythm section without Miles. I’ve always especially liked Coltrane’s recordings with Donald Byrd with the same rhythm section. Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else album has a similar sort of appeal for me, I think because Miles Davis always cast such a huge shadow, it’s fascinating to hear similar music with Miles a step back.